Marriage and Perseverance

The May Book Talk with Thoughts on Marriage, Perseverance, and 3 Books I Recommend

Last Wednesday my good husband and I celebrated thirty-one years together. Would it be unromantic to say that a good marriage requires perseverance? Of course, it’s pleasant work, and the rewards are great, but here are three small ways that I’ve noticed us persevering in our years together:

Persevere in Believing

We’ve come through some challenging times, but I have never once thought my good husband wasn’t doing his best to provide or parent or take his responsibility seriously. He has never given up on me, either. We have believed the best about each other, and, at the same time, held onto a solid belief in a sovereign God who oversees everything here on this country hill.

Persevere in Forgiving

Have I mentioned that no one who lives at this address is perfect? Forgiveness is the oil that keeps this marriage machine running, and it’s been helpful for us to check in frequently with little questions like, “Are we okay?”
Just in case.

Persevere in Dreaming

Who ever thought we’d be crazy enough to drive a minivan with four kids in it cross-country and live in a tent for five weeks?
Who ever dreamed that we’d actually tear out the ugly old kitchen and rebuild new?
We did!
And who knows what’s ahead for this crazy pair of empty nesters. (Well, actually, there’s a wedding this summer, and maybe a trip to Colorado…)

Wherever you are in your marriage journey, why not stop right now and think about how believing, forgiving, and dreaming could land on your relationship in a healing and hopeful way!

Now, Let’s Talk Books

The title of this post promised three great books to add to your reading list, and it’s been an unusually good month for reading here on the hill. One of my favorite thinkers has published new material, and there is even a recommendation for the teens in your life–but trust me, you’ll want to read it yourself, too.

Let’s get started…

One Degree of Freedom

YA Fiction is not my usual genre, but this coming of age tale set deep in the Soviet satellite nation of Romania during the Cold War was not only riveting but also inspiring. One Degree of Freedom includes all the usual fifteen-year-old conflicts–grades and career choices, friendship drama, parent/child tension–but they are ratcheted up a notch when the Communist Party is watching your every move and any indiscretion may put you and your family in mortal danger!

Adriana is a strong protagonist, but not sticky-sweet-perfect, so her growth as a character is both believable and motivating. She is learning how to be a friend, and the compelling action of the novel sweeps the reader into a world of spies and hidden rooms and dark secrets, a world where hope is a thing of the past, just like the “fairy tales” that only the grandmothers recall. History buffs will appreciate author Taryn Hutchison’s detailed research and book nerds will be delighted to discover all the references to classic children’s literature.

Reading the Times

Some books probe a reader’s unexplored territory.

If you have not been in the habit of thinking about your consumption of the news, Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the News by Jeffrey Bilbro is likely to land on your brain and your heart with some weight. That’s a very good thing, because our interaction with the events of the day is both formative and consequential.

Bilbro argues that the believer’s chief interest in the news is as a tool for loving our neighbor well. Only as we understand our times in light of the gospel’s meta-narrative are we adequately equippped to respond to current events with excellence and grace-seasoned wisdom. Our embrace of the gospel insists that all points in time be traced to and understood in light of what is timeless and that the truth claims of all words be evaluated in light of the Living Word. I understand that Henry David Thoreau was not a Christian, but he spoke better than he knew when he wrote, “Read not the times. Read the Eternities. Knowledge does not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven.”

Reading the Times was a gold mine for jarring content, richness of expression, and suggestions for future reading. What a gift to be challenged to take up T.S. Eliot’s recommended “occupation for the saint.” I have so far to go before I truly “apprehend the point of intersection of the timeless with time,” but at least now, I know I should be paying attention to it.

After Doubt

A.J. Swoboda has re-written the narrative around doubt in evangelical circles at a time when the word “desconstruction” has become almost a slogan for the visible and the influential. He suggests that, rather than a sign that our faith is circling the drain, our struggle with faith might be “the surest sign we actually have one.” (377) After Doubt, with its implied message that there is, indeed, Christianity “after doubt,” is brutally honest, but intensely hopeful about all that is good and joyful when believers allow time for reconstruction to follow the seasons of deconstruction that happen in the course of a following life.

Rather than glorifying deconstruction or dismissing doubt, what if we believed that Jesus is actually fully present in the chasm between doubt and faith? What if on the other side of the chasm there lies a deeper hope and trust in Christ? Swoboda advocates for navigating doubt through spiritual practices and through prudent management of one’s thought life and one’s choice of companions.

It turns out that our contemporary Western world with our Enlightenment sensibilities is more predisposed to leaving than to staying and to moving on rather than honoring where we came from. I am not immune to this either, having borrowed Philip Yancey’s moniker as a “recovering fundamentalist” more than once over the years. Readers exhausted with the prevalence of deconstruction narratives will rejoice to see it used, not as a sign post at the opening of a dark, yawning chasm, but instead as a bridge under our feet as we join centuries of faithful followers in the ongoing process of construction, deconstruction, and blessed, grace-fueled REconstruction to the glory of God.

P.S. A.J. has been a favorite thinker of mine for some time, and I reviewed A Glorious Dark here. He’s a great podcast guest as well, and here’s a link to his conversation with James Bryan Smith on Things Above.

Bonus Material

Since we started this post talking about marriage, let’s finish with a few quick recommendations to strengthen your marriage. These are resources I’ve read myself and reviewed here on the blog, so I’ll simply share the titles with embedded links to my input, and you can take it from there.

Would it be unromantic to say that a good marriage requires perseverance? Of course, it’s pleasant work, and the rewards are great, but here are three small ways that I’ve noticed us persevering in our years together…

Here are the titles and authors, linked to my reviews:

Marriage in the Middle and Making Marriage Beautiful by Dorothy Greco

Katharina and Martin Luther by Michelle DeRusha

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

That’s it for May!

Grace be with you all,

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Join me for the May Book Talk! One of my favorite thinkers has published new material, and there is even a recommendation for the teens in your life.

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Many thanks to the publishers who have provided copies of each book to facilitate my review, which is, or course, offered freely and with honesty.

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50 thoughts on “The May Book Talk with Thoughts on Marriage, Perseverance, and 3 Books I Recommend”

  1. It might sound unromantic, but perseverance is what leads to “staying power” through life’s ebbs and flows in a marriage. Excellent comments and that’s coming from the side of a few more years of marriage (57 years this December). Always like your book recommendations as well!

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  2. I agree with you that perseverance is a must for a long-lasting relationship! Congrats to your and your husband on 31 years! We’ll hit 29 years in September. We’ve both had to do some persevering to get this far. lol. Your book suggestions sound great.

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  3. Love the sound of that doubt book. God never left me in my doubts. They need to be talked about more. And perseverance with trust is the glue and n a good long marriage. And humility.

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  4. Congratulations on 31 years of marriage! It is realistic to say that long marriages take perseverance. I hope you get to take that trip out to Colorado this summer. We are planning ours now. Our Colorado grandson has a July birthday that I don’t want to miss! 🙂

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  5. Congratulations on 31 years of marriage, Michele! I appreciate, “We have believed the best about each other.” That has been the key for our 30+ years of marriage too.

    What a great way to phrase this question and it’s applicable equally to spouse, kids or friends. “It’s been helpful for us to check in frequently with little questions like, ‘Are we okay?'”

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  6. Persevering in believing, forgiving, and dreaming is wonderful advice for a marriage! I know those cross-country rides with kids and dogs and a uhaul!
    Hope you get to Colorado this summer. It’s not Maine, but it’s beautiful here, too! And a welcome change perhaps after so much time at home this last year. Congratulations on your anniversary!

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  7. Michele, hi! This is a wonderful season of celebration and anticipation and all kinds of family blessings for you and yours! I am absolutely so happy for you … enjoy every minute. God is so good. And your perseverance, by His grace, is reaping a rich harvest right in front of your eyes.

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  8. Couldn’t agree with you more: perseverance is key to a long, stable, worthwhile marriage. We passed anniversary #50 last summer but will be celebrating this summer when the whole family can gather. Bilbro’s book intrigues me; will be adding that one to the possibility list. (‘Wish I could purchase every book that catches my eye and piques my curiosity!)

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  9. A very happy (belated) anniversary to you! Yes, I’d agree with those three elements.

    Your younger picture looks so familiar to me. If I didn’t know you went to a different college than I did, I’d wonder if I knew you way back then. Plus you would have been in college after I graduated.

    One Degree of Freedom sound really good. I am not a news fan–I like to turn on the radio at the top of the hour once a day or so and get the highlights. But I hadn’t thought of it in connection with loving our neighbors. It does help to be informed so we know what people are talking about and how and whether to respond.

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    1. Balance is everything, right? Some people are so addicted to the news cycle, and then there are people like me (and apparently you too!) who could be happily oblivious. I am realizing that my lack of interest is a privilege I can’t afford to keep living with. I can’t pray with intelligence if I am not aware.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Happy Anniversary! I 100% agree with you. A good marriage does require perseverance and sticking it out during the rough times.

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  11. Dearest Michele,
    Thank you for your so welcome visit at ~ My little old world ~ and let me wish you, with all my heart, Happy anniversary!
    Blessings to you and yours
    Daniela

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  12. Happy Anniversary to you, Michele! These look like wonderful titles. For me and my husband, it has been all about effective communication. We say what we mean and mean what we say and we always do it with respect and loving kindness. It is our recipe for marital success and it has brought 12 years of joy and happiness.

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

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  13. Happy Anniversary to you and your husband, Michele! My husband and I are a year behind you 🙂 Perserverance really is the key – you have given some great advice here!

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  14. Huge congratulations on your anniversary! That is a long time. I love your approach to marriage especially the idea of dreaming together. My husband and I often plan and dream and as long as those dreams stay ours then the future is bright #MischiefandMemories

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  15. Congratulations on your anniversary. I believe that we need to persevere or fight for the things that matter in life, even though love is an incredible emotion it can also be hard work! Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories

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  16. Congratulations on your 31 years! How wonderful Michele… it looks like you’ve both found a happy balance of belief, forgiveness and following your dreams (one of my favourites). A lovely reminder to us all. Thank you for joining us for #mischiefandmemories

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